You’d be hard pushed to go to any club night in Britain, any pub karaoke or even just a day out in the city of Manchester without hearing at least one rendition of Wonderwall or Don’t Look Back In Anger. Manchester’s favourite sons (unless you’re a Morrissey fan), Noel and Liam Gallagher formed Oasis in 1991 and, despite there being only 14 years between their first and final releases, they’re arguably as iconic in British music as The Rolling Stones, or even The Beatles.
But how did they reach these heights? How did a couple of down on their luck guys from Manchester become one of the biggest bands the UK has ever seen? In this article, we’ll chart the story behind the rise of the fantastically popular – and often fantastically controversial – Oasis.
Little by little
Oasis was formed in 1991 off the back of Liam Gallagher’s first band, Rain. Noel was a roadie for Mancunian alt-rock group Inspiral Carpets at the time, but was convinced to join Rain as their new singer. Noel wasn’t exactly interested in being in the band in the state they were in in ‘91, so he joined on the condition that he have complete creative control over the group. Everyone agreed, but Liam still decided to name them Oasis after a leisure centre and entertainment complex in Swindon – yes, really.
Now known as Oasis, it was Noel’s songwriting and hunger for commercial success that drove the band forward. They may have wallowed in mediocrity for a few years, but it didn’t take them long to build up a substantial following in bars and clubs around the north of England.
With a growing fanbase, in 1993 Oasis were invited to play a gig at the iconic King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow. The band were almost faced with disaster when they were refused entry to the club for not being on the bill that night. However, they managed to sneak in with their equipment and give an impressive performance that caught the eye (or ears) of the owner of Creation Records, Alan McGee. Within four days, they’d been signed.
Within a year of being signed, Oasis managed to explode into the wider music consciousness in an almost unprecedented fashion. Their first single, 1994’s Supersonic, immediately went to 31 in the charts upon release, followed by the even more successful Shakermaker and Live Forever. With their newfound success, Oasismania was growing across the UK.
The band released their debut album, Definitely Maybe, on the 29th of August 1994. Their popularity was sky-high and the record went on to become the fastest selling debut in British history a record not beaten by another band until The Arctic Monkeys released their first album in 2006.
With the release of their debut, Oasis’s career began to snowball. They were touring almost constantly and releasing hit after hit, but all this touring caused the first public cracks in the Gallagher brothers’ relationship to appear. In September ‘94, Oasis nearly disbanded when Liam hit Noel over the head with a tambourine, causing him to walk off-stage and fly out to San Francisco. Fortunately it wasn’t the end of the band and 1994 ended with a reasonably stable, very successful Oasis.
Rock ‘n’ roll stars
Oasis found their inspiration in the great British rock bands that had come before them: Led Zeppelin, The Stones, Joy Division – but particularly The Beatles. To hit the heights reached by their idols before them, Oasis knew that they needed to have a crossover hit with American audiences. While very successful in the UK, only Americans very conscious of the rock scene were aware of the lads from Manchester.
It’s no surprise that the band really focused on upping their game in 1995.
April 1995 saw the band releasing Some Might Say, their first single to hit number one in the UK charts and the perfect gateway for the band to enter the international spotlight. With the success of Some Might Say, the band began promoting some of their earlier singles on the other side of the Atlantic. Meanwhile, they released their second album (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory which turned into a huge hit and the UK’s second fastest selling album of all time, behind Michael Jackson’s Bad. All of this popularity was no doubt fuelled by the band’s infamous rivalry with fellow Britpop band Blur.
Off the back of Morning Glory, Oasis managed to reach an indisputable high point. Singles from the album like Champagne Supernova and, in particular, Wonderwall where astronomical in their popularity both in the UK and abroad. The album remains one of the biggest selling albums of all time in Britain, hit the US top ten and went platinum five times – not a bad run at all.
There was no better time than 1996 for Oasis to truly make history, which they did with their concert at Hertfordshire’s Knebworth House. Over two days, the band played the largest concert in British history to more than 250,000 people. Over 4% of the population applied for tickets – yes, really – and over 3,000 people worked behind the scenes to get the show rolling.
Unfortunately, it was at Knebworth that Oasis hit their peak. Following the Knebworth shows, Oasis began a steady decline. Band members left, fights between Noel and Liam became more frequent and, while their 1997 album Be Here Now was a fast-seller, its popularity tapered off quickly. With the release of the critically panned Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants in 1999, many people thought that Oasis wouldn’t survive into the new millennium.
You and I are gonna live forever
Despite a definite lull in their popularity in the late 90s, Oasis were still able to sell out world tours throughout the early noughties – even releasing their first live dvd in 2000. In 2002 the band released Heathen Chemistry that, despite being well-received critically, wasn’t remotely close to the success of the band’s first two releases.
Constant fights, Noel threatening to quit if anymore international tours were announced, and a dreadful performance when they headlined Glastonbury in 2004 caused Oasis to tumble in popularity. People tended to love Oasis’s older music, but just weren’t interested in their newer material. By 2009 it was over, the in-fighting got too much for Noel and in August of that year, Noel released the following statement on the band’s website:
“It is with some sadness and great relief…I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.”
That was that, the career of the most successful and popular British bands in history had come to an end, or had it? Not exactly. Upon the dissolution of the band, Noel and Liam have both had reasonably successful side projects with High Flying Birds and Beady Eye respectively. They both continue to tour and both drop a few Oasis classics into their setlists along the way.
But what of an Oasis reunion? At present it doesn’t seem to be on the cards. Liam has hinted at wanting to get the band back together through his favourite method of communication, Twitter, but to no avail. For now, Oasis fans will have to wait and see to find out whether Manchester’s most famous sons will ever return to the heights of rock ‘n’ roll stardom.
The success story behind Oasis just goes to show that with a good album, you can go anywhere. If you’re looking for the perfect place to start your journey into a Champagne Supernova, get in touch with Kore Studios and book in a recording session today.